Gambling behind the walls: A behavior-analytic perspective

Abstract

Pathological gambling, as a disorder, is a major societal problem and research on prison populations suggests that prisoners might display the disorder at a higher rate than other populations. It is not clear whether this high rate is the outcome of an increased chance of pathological gamblers being incarcerated, the prison environment promoting pathological gambling, or both. However, several converging pieces of evidence suggest that gambling as a means of escape plays a special role in problem gambling. Furthermore, the prison environment may exacerbate the negative reinforcement contingencies that could lead to problem gambling. Little behavior-analytic research has been conducted on gambling in general, let alone with the prison population, but some tools do exist that may aid in the behavioral assessment of problem gambling. Likewise, a behavior-analytic perspective does lead to several predictions that would provide important information that could, in turn, be used to inform treatment programs for those who gamble behind prison walls. One treatment approach, based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, is outlined for potential use in the prison environment.

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